Sunday, February 19, 2012

Birth Control (A Rant)

Just when I thought the United States right-wing couldn't get any crazier, they once again proved me wrong. Now, with the inexplicable surge in popularity of Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, (just add an "a" and an "i" in there strategically, and he could be a lunatic asylum), there are discussions about abortion, birth control, and a sudden passage of state bills (all unconstitutional) that grant "personhood" to a zygote.

I have avoided this discussion in the past, but really now. As a female American citizen I am under the (apparent) delusion that I am free, and that I can pursue life, liberty, and happiness in my own way. Whereas Rick Santorum and those who have jumped on his bandwagon for the moment, feel I can pursue those things, as long as it follows a religious dogma that says I am nothing more than cattle, and just a container for babies. And naturally, as a woman, this is my only purpose in life.

First, let's identify the mythology here. There is this notion of Woman as Mother--even the esteemed Joseph Campbell talked about the fully developed Woman realizing her personal mystery as Mother. Perhaps that was the case in the past, but for many of us, our "motherly" instincts are reserved for other things--like our cats. Never mind that men have "motherly" instincts too--all humans, regardless of sex, have all archetypes within them.

In any event--Women are supposed to want Marriage and Family and to nurture Children. Again, in previous centuries, this may have made some sense. When populations were dying out, there was a need to create more people. Now, in a world where there are 7 billion people, I'm not sure why these people wouldn't think that Nature/God/Whatever wouldn't put the thoughts into our head, "enough is enough"? Our natural resources are stretched thin. I'm not against people having children who want them, but no woman should be made to feel it is her role and responsibility. In the past, women had lots of kids, because half of them usually died. That's not the case in this day and age.

Politically, the center of this debate has been President Obama saying that part of the National Healthcare Law says that Catholic charities and hospitals must provide birth control. They cried foul, so he reached a compromise--the insurers must provide the birth control, the organization does not have to, and doesn't have to pay for it. A very nice concession, considering that Catholic charities have 62% of their budget from government sources, and all that tax exempt. I'd say the government has the right to dictate how that money is used. In fact--I know ministers (non-Catholic) who provide women's health services and don't accept federal money because of the restrictions they face. And while others might be struggling, I am sure the Roman Catholic Church has plenty of money. Which is why I question why they take money from a secular government they don't agree with on such matters, and why they expect parishioners to pay for the "indiscretions" of pedophiliac priests. But that is a digression.

We live in a secular country, which, as I've noted before, gives preference to NO belief, and inhibits none, inasmuch as it follows the law. Obama's compromise is the ideal secular compromise--it doesn't make organizations do something outside of their religion, while still guaranteeing the rights of an American citizen to those who work for them.

I will tell you something about birth control. It is used for its obvious purpose, but also for other things. Birth control pills are frequently used as a treatment for ovarian cysts--which get to be big and painful, and sometimes debilitating to the point of hospitalization and surgery. Taking birth control can suppress these cysts, because birth control is largely made up of hormones. It can also ease the pain and suffering associated with menstruation--both psychological and physical.

There is the urban legend about the woman who sent a letter to a "Mr. Thatcher", a manager for Proctor and Gamble, when the slogan "Have a Happy Period" appeared on Always feminine hygiene products. Here is a relevant excerpt:

What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness — actual smiling, laughing happiness — is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak girl, there will never be anything "happy" about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and KahlĂșa and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreens armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory. For the love of God, pull your head out, man. If you just have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like "Put Down the Hammer" or "Vehicular Manslaughter Is Wrong"? Or are you just picking on us?

You may laugh at this, but before I started taking birth control pills, this was an accurate description of me at the time of my "monthly cycle". Besides the near-murderous rage you can experience for no good reason at all, there is the pain and suffering that comes from 8 straight days of bleeding, and feeling like you are being stabbed in the gut every 7 minutes or so. It makes the Biblical plagues of Egypt, including the rivers of blood, look like a forecast of "30% chance of showers". Inevitably this would mean a day of work missed each month. (I had a relative with a similar situation in the 1950s--she was in so much pain she had to call out from work. As a result she was fired for being "unreliable".) On the pill--yeah, I'm a little sensitive just beforehand, and I have some pain, but not anywhere near what I have without the pill. And I lose hardly any blood, as those hormones keep me within a moderate and sensible three-days of "menstruation". (Sorry to get so personal, but if you don't like it--blame our idiot Congress, who has the nerve to even raise the personal question.) And I don't miss work on its account.

My point is that a lot of this is about curtailing the rights of women--it really has nothing to do with "protecting" me, or protecting some "thing" that couldn't live on its own, and grows inside my body like a parasite. You may think that sounds harsh, but that's how a pregnant woman who doesn't want children feels about a pregnancy. Pregnancy is hard on a woman's body--and I'm not putting my body through that unless I want it. The government has no business telling me who and who not to sleep with, and under what circumstances. In Santorum's world, if a woman is raped and gets an abortion, she would be treated like a murderer. In fact, Utah had a law (don't know if it passed or was overturned) that suggested that even miscarriage should be investigated as manslaughter. Any of these people ever read "The Handmaid's Tale"? And does it even occur to them that this is where they're going?

Let's get something straight here. All this pro-life BS is just that--these are the same people that would fire a woman who got pregnant if they could get around family leave laws. Even with family leave, the woman doesn't get paid for some of that time--she's just allowed to return to her job. But even besides that--there are not laws in place that protect the child. Lawmakers wanted to deny mandatory health insurance to children, do not support education initiatives--and many of these so called "pro-lifers" support the death penalty and war. (The Catholic Church has a document on the doctrine of "just war".) So, don't tell me it's because you value human life so much. Clearly some lives are more important than others. And clearly you don't care beyond the woman actually giving birth, potentially ruining her health, and the rest of her life. (I'm not talking about the Church as a whole here--I'm talking about the politicians. Some Catholics care very much about all these things, as do people of other faiths or non-faith).

In a secular society, the government has no business whatsoever making laws that turn women into containers for fetuses, and giving fetuses more rights than the mother. And shame on the Catholic bishops for making this an issue--your religion has so much more to offer, and you focus on issues that will render your whole organization anti-human, (even more) hypocritical, and irrelevant.

I will end with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Saturday Night Live on this issue. It is fitting that comedians comment on something that is such a joke.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Vagina Ideologues
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Contraception Crusade
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

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